Update [2005-4-17 20:23:35 by susanhbu]: WaPo story, with wonderful quotes from Sen. Leahy and staff, below the fold.

Cross-posted at DailyKos. UPDATES below fold, including “What Hostages?” As I perused this important new story from The Independent

150 hostages and 19 deaths leave US claims of Iraqi ‘peace’ in tatters

By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul

… The upsurge in violence across Iraq in the past four days has left claims made by the Pentagon that the tide is turning in Iraq and there are hopeful signs of a return to normality in tatters.

At least 17 Iraqis were killed during the day and two US soldiers were reported dead …

Ironically, one reason why Washington can persuade the outside world that its venture in Iraq is finally coming right is that it is too dangerous for reporters to travel outside Baghdad or stray far from their hotels in the capital. The threat to all foreigners was underlined last week when an American contractor was snatched by kidnappers.

… I heard, by chance, the news that an extraordinary 29-year-old American aid worker named Marla Ruzicka was killed by a suicide bomber yesterday, enroute to the Baghdad airport.

: : : More below : : :
Update [2005-4-17 20:23:35 by susanhbu]:

WaPo: Victims’ Champion Is Killed in Iraq

By Ellen Knickmeyer, Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A13

BAGHDAD, April 17 — In a one-woman battle for the victims of war, 28-year-old Marla Ruzicka won over Congress and the U.S. military, persuading the United States to free a precedent-setting $20 million for civilians it injured by mistake in Afghanistan and Iraq. …

The [suicide bomber’s] blast also killed Ruzicka’s longtime Iraqi aide and driver, Faiz Ali Salim, 43, as they drove the road to a U.S. military base by the airport, where foreigners travel for flights out of the country and where Iraqis go to ask for help from the American forces.

A security guard for the convoy was also killed.

“What she wanted to do was eminently sensible,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who pushed through the compensation package after Ruzicka proposed it, said by telephone from the United States. “Unfortunately, things that are eminently sensible sometimes get lost in bureaucracy without a champion. She was a champion I would follow anywhere.”

“It’s rare anybody in a lifetime can accomplish what she did, and she did it in just a couple years,” Leahy said.

Ruzicka came from the isolated, hilly town of Lakeport, Calif. What started out as anti-war fervor during college took her to Washington, then to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The amazing thing is she came here as an anti-war activist, really,” said Tim Rieser, an aide to Leahy who worked closely with Ruzicka on compensating Afghan and Iraq families. But she “quickly saw that wasn’t the way to accomplish what she felt strongest about, which was to help innocent people who were wounded — to get Congress, get the U.S. military to do that.”

“In that sense, she accomplished what frankly nobody has ever accomplished,” Rieser said. “Programs were created for Afghanistan and for Iraq to provide assistance to victims of U.S. military mistakes.”

Ruzicka would lose her cell phone every other day, Rieser recalled, but she could get Bianca Jagger to a party in Kabul, win millions in public and private funds for war victims, and change the way the United States handled war, colleagues said.

Blonde, with hair variously in dreadlocks or extensions, Ruzicka could “talk, smile and bust her way into all the meetings she needed — with Afghans, Iraqis, U.S. military and U.S. Embassy people,” said Quil Lawrence, a journalist who had met her in Kabul. …

Full story: WaPo

Update [2005-4-17 12:42:59 by susanhbu]: This has to crack me up (laughing), otherwise …

Sent to Rescue Shiite Hostages, Iraqi Troops Find None



Published: April 17, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 – Anyone in Baghdad this morning could have been forgiven for thinking the country was on the verge of civil war.

Three Iraqi Army battalions had surrounded the town of Madaen, just south of the capital, where Sunni kidnappers were said to be threatening to kill hundreds of Shiite hostages unless all Shiites left the town. As the national assembly met, Iraq’s top political figures warned of a grave sectarian crisis. Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric issued a plea for restraint. Even the outgoing prime minister released a statement decrying the “savage, filthy, and dirty atrocities” in Madaen.

But as the army battalions arrived in Madaen, they saw streets full of people calmly sipping tea in cafés and going about their business. There were no armed Sunni mobs, no cowering Shiite victims. After hours of careful searches, the soldiers assisted by air surveillance found no evidence of any kidnappings or refugees at all. …

Update [2005-4-17 9:38:51 by susanhbu]: From Reuters:

U.S. Aid Worker Killed in Baghdad Car Bomb Blast

Sun Apr 17, 2005 12:15 PM ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An American humanitarian worker was among three people killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a convoy traveling on Baghdad’s airport road, the U.S. embassy said Sunday.

Marla Ruzicka, 27, the founder of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, was driving behind a private security convoy when the car bomb exploded Saturday …

The identities of the others killed were not immediately known. Five people were wounded in the explosion and taken to a U.S. military hospital inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, a U.S. embassy spokesman said.

Ruzicka, who grew up in California, had worked frequently in Iraq and Afghanistan trying to uncover details on the number of civilian casualties in the wars and secure compensation for the families of victims.

She also spent time cataloguing the impact of war on communities, often running great risks to do so.

She is one of at least half a dozen humanitarian workers who have been killed in Iraq. Four American Baptists were shot dead in a drive-by shooting near [Mosul].

And Margaret Hassan, a British-born aid worker who ran the Care International group in Iraq, was killed …

The road to Baghdad’s international airport is one of the most dangerous in the country, with almost daily suicide bomb blasts and ambushes.

Ruzicka was shortly due to leave Iraq to return to the United States to work on securing more funding for her group.

The story of Marla’s death is so new — I heard it by chance on CNN just now — that there isn’t a single wire story or newspaper report, or any story yet at CNN. Or is it because the news just isn’t picking up her story, and the only reason CNN mentioned her death was that the reporter in Baghdad knew Marla? See below for more on news coverage of violence in Iraq. First, more about Marla:

“Marla Ruzicka is out there saying, ‘Wait, everybody. Here is what is really happening. You’d better know about this.’ We have whistle blowers in industry. Maybe sometimes we need whistle blowers in foreign policy.” Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), with information provided by CIVIC, sponsored legislation that authorizes assistance to innocent Iraqis who need housing and medical care.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Marla Ruzicka, a former protege of Medea Benjamin –according to Alternet — “has been working tirelessly in Iraq to help the many innocent victims of the U.S. invasion.”

The site for Marla’s work is CIVIC, where you can sign up for Marla’s journals from Iraq. The “About Us” page explains that “CIVIC seeks to mitigate the impact of the conflict and its aftermath on the people of Iraq by ensuring that timely and effective life-saving assistance is provided to those in need.”

The site offers no news yet of Marla’s death.

Alternet, which notes that Marla’s work is well-known to its readers, provides this brief history in a preface to a letter from Marla describing her work in Iraq:

To help alleviate the terrible human suffering, Marla, a former Global Exchange staffer, started CIVIC, a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding civilians harmed in conflicts around the world. By surveying the countryside and interviewing victims.

Her work seemed to have been all about individual people in Iraq:

 Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Marla’s site describes this scene from a photo at Commondreams.org: “CIVIC founder Marla Ruzicka visiting Ahmad, 15 and Inas 17, who lost their mother when a cluster bomb struck their home, leaving their eleven year-old brother Hasin blind, and Karwar, their 18 year old brother and breadwinner, handicapped forever. The conditions in the hospitals during the war caused the children to suffer permanent burn damage, with a high risk of developing skin cancer. CIVIC is working to get them long-term medical care and plastic surgery. Ahmad doesn’t play with his friends anymore, embarrassed by his wounds, and Inas’s dream of having a husband and family in the future is a far off dream.”


Perhaps the reason there is not a single wire story about Marla’s death is that we are not getting an accurate picture of the violence in Iraq, reports today’s The Independent:

Most violent incidents in Iraq go unreported. We saw one suicide bomb explosion, clouds of smoke and dust erupting into the air, and heard another in the space of an hour. Neither was mentioned in official reports. Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and “our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up”. This makes the official Pentagon claim that the number of insurgent attacks is down from 140 a day in January to 40 a day this month dubious.

US casualties have fallen to about one dead a day in March compared with four a day in January and five a day in November. But this is the result of a switch in American strategy rather than a sign of a collapse in the insurgency. US military spokesmen make plain that America’s military priority has changed from offensive operations to training Iraqi troops and police. More than 2,000 US military advisers are working with Iraqi forces.

With US networks largely confined to their hotels in Baghdad by fear of kidnapping, it is possible to sell the American public the idea that no news is good news. General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, said recently that if all goes well “we shall make fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces”. Other senior US officers say this will be of the order of four brigades, from 17 to 13, or a fall in the number of US troops in Iraq from 142,000 to 105,000 by next year.

Marla, thank you for all you did and for the legacy you leave us. I do not know about the future of Marla’s program, CIVIC, but donations may be made at any time.

Update [2005-4-17 11:43:40 by susanhbu]:: Contact information for CIVIC. We can send them e-mails with our condolences:

Write to us at: info@civicworldwide.org

CIVIC’s Mailing address:

Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

1630 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 500

Washington, DC 20009

CIVIC’s Web site home

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